From Roy LeBlanc: Student newsrooms prepare tomorrow’s newsroom leaders

Name: Roy LeBlanc
Where I Am Now: Tampa Bay Times, Assistant Metro Editor
As a recruiter of tomorrow’s newsroom leaders, I can say without hesitation that the young journalists who come to me most prepared are the ones who have left their blood, sweat and tears on a student newsroom keyboard (or ancient couch, in some cases). There’s nothing quite like juggling that commitment to your colleagues and readers with a full-time course load – and in some cases another job – to figure out whether you have the passion to do this. It’s trial by fire. If flinging yourself into that newsroom again after a full course load is the best part of your day, you might be a journalist, whether you like it or not. We just can’t help ourselves. And there’s no better way to scrape down to your bare DNA and see if a journalist lives there.

From Jessica DaSilva: The Alligator made me a better legal journalist and lawyer

Name: Jessica DaSilva

College publication: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)

Where I am now: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Resource Counsel

The Alligator made me a better legal journalist and continues to make be a better lawyer.

I spent three years working at The Independent Florida Alligator, starting as a stringer and eventually becoming editor-in-chief. Although I couldn’t seem to crack into the industry in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, my writing and research abilities are what got me into law school and succeed as a legal writer.

Eventually, I made my way back into journalism as a senior legal editor for Bloomberg Law, where I wrote about the criminal justice system for a legal audience.

My experience at The Alligator is why I was able to hit the ground running at Bloomberg and successfully cover U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments, political movements affecting criminal justice, and delve deeper into the minds of policy experts to provide analysis unparalleled by other organizations covering the same issues.

This depth of knowledge and ability follow my curiosity to find answers is what led me into advocacy. I use these skills to support the criminal justice reform movement in a way that all people can understand the importance for change.

From Alan Hovorka: ‘Without their independence guaranteed, our democracy will be worse off.’

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Name: Alan Hovorka

College publication: The Ball State Daily News (Muncie, Indiana)

Where I am now: Watchdog Reporter at Stevens Point Journal/USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin

Independent student newsrooms act not only as a voice for students but also as a critical proving ground for this country’s next generation of journalists. I know because I was one.

My time as a member of The Ball State Daily News set me up for the career I have now. It gave me invaluable experience in dealing with public officials who were recalcitrant in upholding their duties to provide public information. One of the times this fight manifested was when the university fired a widely popular president and refused to disclose the reason for his firing even though they gave him a hefty severance package.

Student newsrooms exist, in part, to allow young journalists to learn and make mistakes and to get good at demanding and asserting the public’s right to know. Without their independence guaranteed, our democracy will be worse off.

From Adam Lichtenstein: I wouldn’t be who I am today without The Alligator

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Name: Adam Lichtenstein

College publication: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)

Where I am now: Sports Reporter at Palm Beach Post

I didn’t get to college dreaming of being a journalist. I wanted to work for a sports team in some capacity. I had worked on my high school newspaper, mostly to bolster my college resume. But after half a semester at the University of Florida, I realized I missed writing and that I really didn’t have a career path in sports. So I figured I’d give journalism a shot.

After a couple semesters in the journalism program, I basically idolized The Alligator. The writers, particularly in the sports section, were insightful, witty and, most of all, really good. After a few tries, I was hired onto the staff. I spent my last two years of college working for the paper, and they were an amazing two years. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I certainly wouldn’t be the journalist I am, without The Alligator.

From Kevin Huynh: My student newsroom gave me amazing opportunities

Name: Kevin Huynh

College publication: Sparks Magazine UF

Where I am now: Fashion Assistant at the Wall Street Journal/WSJ Magazine

My time as the Style Director at Sparks Magazine, a role I pitched and created for myself, really allowed me to both see my creativity into fruition but also gave me an amazing opportunity to work with others as well. The student newsroom is an environment that allows individuals to truly express themselves and gain invaluable experiences with their peers. Those who are willing to put in the work at a student magazine/newsroom are the same people who make strides in their career goals. I was able to use my previous internship experience and position at Sparks magazine to get my foot in the door of the fashion industry. First as an freelancer with the Senior Editor-at-Large of Glamour, then as the Accessories Assistant at Interview and finally as the Fashion Assistant at the Wall Street Journal.

From Colleen Wright: ‘There’s nothing like producing professional work with your best friends’

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Name: Colleen Wright

College publication: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)

Where I am now: Education Reporter at the Miami Herald

I credit my time at the Independent Florida Alligator as not only a springboard to four internships and a job offer in college, but also as the cornerstone of my entire college experience. I grew as a journalist and as a person in my three years at the Alligator. In addition to providing real-world opportunities at the student level, it gave me a social scene and a support group. I’ve made friends for life at the paper. There’s nothing like producing professional work with your best friends five nights a week. Student newspapers are the real college journalism learning experience, ones that employers look to for real-world and leadership skills. They are the biggest asset to budding journalists everywhere. #savestudentnewspapers!

From Kaitlin Benz: My student newsroom helped me get into grad school

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Name: Kaitlin Benz

College publication: MET Media (Denver, Colorado)

Where I am now: Freelance reporter, graduate student at UC Berkeley

When I was an undergrad I studied journalism and my school certainly did not have the most robust journalism program in the nation. I went to a small, commuter school in Denver that is not known for cranking out Pulitzer winners. But MSU Denver did have student media and I was able to get involved my senior year, which is what I directly attribute my acceptance to one of the best J-school grad programs in the country.

In my student newsroom, I was surrounded by dedicated and diverse people who thought outside the box every single day. I didn’t know I needed that at the time, but I sure did. Those people made being an editor a job I loved every day I was doing it and I am thankful for them every day.

Without my student newsroom, I would not be able to pursue my education at a higher level and I would not be getting the freelance opportunities I am not. Plain and simple.